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The Mobilization of the Food Movement

President Obama signing Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

The ‘Good Food Movement‘ has been growing in small circles across the nation.  These circles include food and farm advocates, educators, writers, chefs and consumers who are concerned about the safety of our food, food justice, and the viability of the U.S. food system.  Food system sustainability, or food security, includes access to healthy and affordable for everyone.  Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative addresses childhood obesity and diabetes, and has brought the need for access to affordable healthy food into the mainstream consciousness, and has increased awareness of ‘food deserts’.  According to the blog Obamafoodorama, The First Lady has “a deep understanding of both general Ag policy and nutrition/lunch programs.” [1]

FLOTUS in White House Garden

Slow Food Momentum

A second Obama administration is likely to increase the momentum of the good food movement, especially with the potential passing of Proposition 37 in California.  Prop. 37 would require foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) to be labeled and would affect how food is produced and labeled in America. With growing consumer awareness, Obama’s administration would be poised to make greater advances in U.S. Food and Farm Policy.

There have already been many recent successes in the food and agriculture front.  Who can forget pink slime or the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which according to the FDA is “the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years.”  The law “aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.” [2]  The White House now has it’s first organic garden and serves local food daily.  The Obamas demonstrate their understanding of the interconnectedness of Agricultural Policy and the need for a sustainable and secure food system.

The administration is currently focused on creating food security to ensure that “even the poorest among us have access to good, nutritious food.” [1] They work with legislators at the state level on issues that affect the food system and related public health issues.  They created a Food Safety group whose focus is on advancing food safety legislation.  You can read more about Obama’s Ag Policy at Obamafoodorama.

Romney-Ryan support Big Ag

According to Tom Philpott of Mother Jones, a Romney-Ryan Administration would likely halt, and perhaps even reverse, any progress for Food and Ag Policy.  Current Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney claims to have a ‘Vision for a Vibrant Rural America’, which really just favors less regulation that is not in the consumer’s best interest.  Romney’s potential picks for the USDA reveal that his administration is more than likely to protect the interest of large agricultural corporations and massive chemical companies like Monsanto and Cargill, with whom he has close ties. [3] A Romney-Ryan Administration would also mean cuts to food assistance programs, such as SNAP and local food banks, which many Americans rely on for sustenance.  The ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food ‘ program which assists local communities in increasing local fruit & vegetable production and consumption would also experience cuts. [4] Meanwhile, hefty subsidies to large agricultural corporations would disproportionaltely continue.

Will there be a lame duck Farm Bill? 

The 2008 Farm Bill expired in September of this year and is scheduled for a new vote after the November Elections. The bill is currently stalled in the Republican dominated House of Representatives and “(t) hough the House Agriculture Committee has approved its version, many lawmakers have blamed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for stalling the bill by failing to call for a vote. [5]   According to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), the ranking Chairwoman of the U.S. Agriculture Committee, “(we) passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that reforms farm programs and cuts $23 million in spending.  I hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will follow that lead with a bipartisan approach to this legislation. It is critical that we are able to finalize the Farm Bill before the beginning of next year when farm programs begin to expire, which would impact milk and food prices for families.” [5]

Whatever the outcome this election, there needs to be a national discussion about food labeling requirements and other important policies that affect the security and sustainability of our food system.

sources:

[1] http://obamafoodorama.blogspot.com/2009/04/100-days-of-obama-agriculture-policy.html

[2] http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/default.htm

[3] http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/11/what-would-president-romney-mean-food-and-agriculture

[4] http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/knowyourfarmer?navtype=KYF&navid=KYF_MISSION

[5] http://farmprogress.com/california-farmer-story-stabenow-lame-duck-farm-bill-needed-8-64431

http://grist.org/food/moment-of-truth-is-the-food-movement-for-real-or-just-talk/

http://civileats.com/2012/09/26/the-2012-farm-bill-will-be-visiting-a-lame-duck/

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/11/what-would-president-romney-mean-food-and-agriculture

images: 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/5325468392/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/5874984665/

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